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Lionel Messi news: Guardiola explains why he changed Argentine's position in the Champions League during Barcelona stint

ANALYST
News
5.21K   //    01 Jul 2019, 15:08 IST

FIFA Ballon d'Or Gala 2010
FIFA Ballon d'Or Gala 2010

What's the story?

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has explained the reasons behind his decision to change Lionel Messi's playing position in the UEFA Champions League back when he was in charge of Barcelona.

He added that the Catalan giants have always had the right players to win the European title, but maintains that the Champions League can be incredibly demanding.

In case you didn't know...

Guardiola is a legend at the Camp Nou, especially for his four-year managerial stint during which he won a host of titles including three LaLiga titles, two Champions League trophies, one Copa del Rey, three Spanish Supercups, two UEFA Super Cups and two FIFA Club World Cups.

The two European Cups came in 2009 and 2011 when Barcelona beat Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United in both the finals. Guardiola has struggled to inspire a team to European glory since then, having failed to guide Bayern Munich and present club Manchester City to the competition's finals.

Meanwhile, Messi has lifted the title once since Guardiola's departure after Barcelona defeated Juventus in the 2015 final at Berlin. Last season, the Blaugrana were favourites to lift the Champions League trophy. However, the side succumbed to a 4-0 defeat to Premier League giants Liverpool despite having had a three-goal advantage over them.

The heart of the matter

Guardiola restrained himself from criticising Ernesto Valverde, and instead revealed how he changed Messi's position help him adapt to the physicality of the Champions League.

Speaking to Catalan publication Ara (via Mirror Football), he said, "I think they are there, the right players. They have always been there. I recently said that the two toughest rivals I have encountered in my career are Liverpool this year and Luis Enrique's Barca."

"The Champions League is very demanding... the defensive involvement in Europe is very large. That is one of the reasons I played Leo through the middle. I didn't want Leo to experience the physical wear and tear, so he could express his talent in the last 20 metres of the pitch."

"But at the Camp Nou against Liverpool, he ran like a beast. If they had reached the Champions League final, they would have won."

What's next?

Messi is currently on international duty with Argentina in the Copa America, where they are scheduled to face Brazil in the semi-finals on July 2.

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